C. Box: Savage Run

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C. Box Savage Run
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    Savage Run
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C. J. Box


Savage Run

PART ONE

No compromise in defense of Mother Earth.

Earth First!

1

Targhee National Forest, Idaho

June 10


On the third day of their honeymoon, infamous environmental activist Stewie Woods and his new bride, Annabel Bellotti, were spiking trees in the forest when a cow exploded and blew them up. Until then, their marriage had been happy.

They met by chance. Stewie Woods had been busy pouring bag after bag of sugar and sand into the gasoline tanks of a fleet of pickups in a newly graded parking lot that belonged to a natural gas exploration crew. The crew had left for the afternoon for the bars and hotel rooms of nearby Henry’s Fork. One of the crew had returned unexpectedly and caught Stewie as he was ripping the top off a bag of sugar with his teeth. The crew member pulled a 9mm semi-automatic from beneath the dashboard of his truck and fired several wild shots in Stewie’s direction. Stewie dropped the bag and ran away, crashing through the timber like a bull elk.

Stewie had outrun and outjuked the man with the pistol when he literally tripped over Annabel, who was unaware of his approach because she was listening to Melissa Etheridge on her Walkman as she sunbathed nude on the grass in an orange pool of late afternoon sun. She looked good, he thought, strawberry blonde hair with a two-day Rocky Mountain fire-engine tan (two hours in the sun at 8,000 feet created a sunburn like a whole day at the beach), small ripe breasts, and a trimmed vector of pubic hair.

He had gathered her up and pulled her along through the timber, where they hid together in a dry spring wash until the man with the pistol gave up and went home. She had giggled while he held her-This was real adventure, she said-and he had used the opportunity to run his hands tentatively over her naked shoulders and hips and had found out, happily, that she did not object. They made their way back to where she had been sunbathing and, while she dressed, they introduced themselves.

She told him she liked the idea of meeting a famous environmental outlaw in the woods while she was naked, and he appreciated that. She said she had seen his picture before, maybe in Outside magazine, and admired his looks-tall and rawboned, with round rimless glasses, a short-cropped full beard, wearing his famous red bandana on his head.

Her story was that she had been camping alone in a dome tent, taking a few days off from a freewheeling cross-continent trip that had begun with her divorce from an anal-retentive investment banker named Nathan in her hometown of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. She was bound, eventually, for Seattle.

“I’m falling in love with your mind,” he lied.

“Already?” she asked.

He encouraged her to travel with him, and they took her vehicle since the lone crew member had disabled Stewie’s Subaru with three bullets into the engine block. Stewie was astonished by his good fortune. Every time he looked over at her and she smiled back, he was poleaxed with exuberance.

Keeping to dirt roads, they crossed into Montana. The next afternoon, in the backseat of her SUV during a thunderstorm that rocked the car and blew shroudlike sheets of rain through the mountain passes, he asked her to marry him. Given the circumstances and the supercharged atmosphere, she accepted. When the rain stopped, they drove to Ennis, Montana, and asked around about who could marry them, fast. Stewie did not want to take the chance of letting her get away. She kept saying she couldn’t believe she was doing this. He couldn’t believe she was doing this either, and he loved her even more for it.

At the Sportsman Inn in Ennis, Montana, which was bustling with fly fishermen bound for the trout-rich waters of the Madison River, the desk clerk gave them a name and they looked up Judge Ace Cooper (Ret.) in the telephone book.


Judge Cooper was a tired and rotund man who wore a stained white cowboy shirt and elk horn bolo tie with his collar open. He performed the wedding ceremony in a room adjacent to his living room that was bare except for a single filing cabinet, a desk and three chairs, and two framed photographs-one of the judge and President George H. W. Bush, who had once been up there fishing, and the other of the judge on a horse before the Cooper family lost their ranch in the 1980s.

The ceremony had taken eleven minutes, which was just about average for Judge Cooper, although he had once performed it in eight minutes for two American Indians.

“Do you, Allan Stewart Woods, take thee Annabeth to be your lawful wedded wife?” Judge Cooper asked, reading from the marriage application form.

“Annabel,” Annabel corrected in her biting Rhode Island accent.

“I do,” Stewie said. He was beside himself with pure joy.

Stewie twisted the ring off his finger and placed it on hers. It was unique; handmade gold mounted with sterling silver monkey wrenches. It was also three sizes too large. The Judge studied the ring.

“Monkey wrenches?” the Judge asked.

“It’s symbolic,” Stewie had said.

“I’m aware of the symbolism,” the Judge said darkly, before finishing the passage.

Annabel and Stewie beamed at each other. Annabel said that this was, like, the wildest vacation ever. They were Mr. and Mrs. Outlaw Couple. He was now her famous outlaw, as yet untamed. She said her father would be scandalized, and her mother would have to wear dark glasses at Newport. Only her Aunt Tildie, the one with the wild streak who had corresponded with, but never met, a Texas serial killer until he died from lethal injection, would understand.

Stewie had to borrow a hundred dollars from her to pay the judge, and she signed over a traveler’s check.

After the couple left in the SUV with Rhode Island plates, Judge Ace Cooper went to his lone filing cabinet and found the file with the information he needed. He pulled a single piece of paper out and read it as he dialed the telephone. While he waited for the right man to come to the telephone, he stared at the framed photo of himself on his former ranch. The ranch, north of Yellowstone Park, had been subdivided by a Bozeman real estate company into over thirty fifty-acre “ranchettes.” Famous Hollywood celebrities, including the one whose early career photos he had recently seen in Penthouse, now lived there. Movies had been filmed there. There was even a crackhouse, but it was rumored that the owner wintered in L.A. The only cattle that existed were purely for visual effect, like landscaping that moved and crapped and looked good when the sun threatened to drop below the mountains.

The man he was waiting for came to the telephone.

“Stewie Woods was here,” he said. “The man himself. I recognized him right off, and his ID proved it.” There was a pause as the man on the other end of the telephone asked Cooper something. “Yeah, I heard him say that just before they left. They’re headed for the Bighorns in Wyoming. Somewhere near Saddlestring.”


Annabel told Stewie that their honeymoon was quite unlike what she had imagined a honeymoon would be, and she contrasted it with her first one with Nathan. Nathan had been about sailing boats, champagne, and Barbados. Stewie was about spiking trees in stifling heat in a national forest in Wyoming. He even asked her to carry his pack.

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